Before every Vikings home game at Mall of America Field the public address announcer tries to get the purple-clad fans all riled up by yelling about it being the loudest stadium in the NFL as Led Zeppelin blasts in the background and Ragnar's motorcycle roars.
The Metrodome gets loud during Vikings games, for sure. But it might not be quite as loud as CenturyLink Field in Seattle. Players, coaches and media members are nearly universal in agreement: the noise inside the Seahawks' stadium when the opposing team has the ball is as deafening as it gets in the NFL.
In Seattle they call this phenomenon the "12th man." Of course, uttering the words "12th man" to a Vikings fan immediately conjures up sickening memories of their 12 men in the huddle penalty against the Saints that likely cost them a trip to the Super Bowl following the 2009 season.
To Seahawks fans, however, the 12th man is a point of pride.
Prior to every kickoff at CenturyLink Field, the fans are asked to turn their attention to the south end zone as a special guest raises the team's trademark 12 flag. The Seahawks' web site claims the decibel level inside CenturyLink reaches 112 dB. For comparison sake, a Boeing 747 cranks out 130 dB, which is right at the threshold of pain.
"Those fans are really intelligent fans," Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers told reporters prior to their infamous loss in Seattle in Week 3 – you know, the Monday night game where Golden Tate pushed off and then was credited for a game-winning touchdown on a pass the Packers intercepted. That replay rings a bell, right? Rodgers went on to say, "They get so stinking loud out there. They do a really good job of giving the defense that advantage when we have to go on some silent counts or when we're trying to hear each other. They should be commended for that."
"Stinking loud" is a good way to put it. Silent counts, music and noise blaring from speakers during practice… you can bet the Vikings are doing the usual routine to prepare for Seattle's stinky cacophony of crowd noise.
The primary objective: no false starts.
Visiting teams have been flagged for false starts 113 times in 59 games at CenturyLink Field since 2005. That's the most in the NFL in that time frame according to the Seahawks media relations department. Mall of America Field, by the way, ranks second on that list at 112 false start penalties called on visiting teams since 2005. Close, Vikings fans; very close.
For the most part, the Vikings have done a good job of not being penalized for false starts. According to footballdb.com (The Football Database) 22 teams have been called for more false start penalties than the Vikings – who have been called for seven -- have this season. Last year, the Vikings had 20 false start penalties, which ranked right in the middle of the pack among NFL teams. Ironically, it's the Seahawks who seem to have trouble with false starts. They have been called for 14 false start penalties this season, which is the third-most in the league, and last year they led the league with a whopping 38 false start penalties. And, yes, their fans know to be quieter when they have the ball.
This game figures to be rather close and low-scoring so penalty-avoidance will be paramount.
Seattle's 31st-ranked passing offense and banged-up receiving corps won't scare anyone (unless Sidney Rice avoids injuring something long enough to make some big plays). Similarly, the Vikings' struggling passing game will have its hands full against the Seahawks secondary, which might be the most physical and aggressive in the NFL. This game could come down to a showdown between the NFL's two leading rushers: Adrian Peterson and Marshawn Lynch.
Whichever running back has the best day will give his team a definite advantage. That's not good news if you are a Vikings fan given that the Vikes defense has allowed the first 100-yard rushing games in the careers of LaRod Stephens-Howling and Doug Martin the last two games. Oh and, by the way, Lynch has topped 95 yards rushing in seven of his last eight home games.
The Vikings need All Day to hulk up like he did at the team's Halloween party the other night and carry them to a huge day on the ground. Lots of Peterson and minimal false start penalties might be just the recipe to steal a win in Seattle on Sunday afternoon.
One final side note, you know those 112 dB levels the Seahawks claim at CenturyLink Field? Minnesota Twins fans proudly recall during the 1987 and 1991 World Series, decibel readings reached a reported 125 dB and 118 dB respectively as Homer Hanky-waving fans screamed their teams to victory.